Check those outlets!

Nasty fire in this area, last night. Appears one fatality. Woman woke around 2.30 AM to hear 'popping noise, sparks and flames from an outlet. Managed to get herself and 12 year old out, but suffered smoke inhalation. Another young adult is missing; assumed dead. No information yet whether anything was plugged into the outlet etc. Or whether anything was wired non standard etc. Indication so far seems to be that it was the outlet itself that was faulty. House virtually total loss Fire Commisioner's staff on site today to investiagte and probably find remains of the missing person. So recommend; anyone .......... if you suspect an outlet check, immediately switch off that circuit and replace.
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On 4 Feb, 20:58, terry wrote:

Smoke alarms?
Arc fault circuit interrupter? I believe the quality of North American outlets is so poor these are required on bedroom circuits.
Owain
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How do those things work, BTW?
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I find it remarkable that the US still uses wiring accessories like the rest of the world used to use 60 years ago, and then mandates the use of devices to detect the connections starting to burst into flames to solve that problem of crappy wiring practice. Mandating modern wiring would seem to me to be much more sensible. That's how the rest of the world solved the problem of electrical installations bursting into flames 50+ years ago.
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Andrew Gabriel
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wibbled on Friday 05 February 2010 20:29

Just out of interest, what's the deal with US socket outlets? 120VAC I know about - but how many amps max per socket and per circuit? Any plugtop fusing?
They also have some 240VAC outlets for big loads don't they Is this based on a 120-0-120 supply?
Are RCDs (GFCIs) mandatory? Is everything 3 phase distribution (or is that 6 phase)?
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On Fri, 05 Feb 2010 20:40:31 +0000, Tim Watts wrote:

I don't recall ever seeing a fused plug over here, and they're not that common in devices, either; most equipment seems to rely on something going bang back at the service panel (i.e. consumer unit / fusebox) before things catch fire.
Generally you get three types of 120V outlets:
15A neutral and 'hot' but no ground, 15A neutral, hot and (round) ground pin socket, 20A neutral, hot and ground; the neutral is a '-|' shape
then wiring: #14 wire rated for 15A, #12 for 20A #10 for 30A

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split-phase_electric_power
US 240V sockets and wiring are both incredibly chunky - looks like it was all designed in the 1940s :)

Not sure exactly what current rules are - but GFCIs are mandatory for kitchens (at least near sinks), bathrooms, and outbuildings. I've seen lots of complaints about the latter because of the issues they have with chest freezers, as commonly found in garages. Lots of folk seem to initially fit a GFCI socket there and then replace it with a normal socket for everyday use, then swap the GFCI back if they move in order to sell the house.
I still see a lot of good ol' fuseboxes around; we've got five on our property, along with a couple of service panels full of more modern breakers.
cheers
Jules
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Things like electric stoves usually have a plug and socket connection. Older-style stoves (maybe some still do) adjusted temperature on the rings by switching two elements so that they operated either singly, together, in series or parallel on 120 or 240 volts.

Not a total truth. Some, like those intended for stoves (cookers) are indeed extremely chunky. Others, like the NEMA 6-15 and 6-20 are very neat. Often used for room-size air conditioners.
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Jules wrote:

We recently stayed with ex-pat friends now living in California, and I was surprised to see they had a bog-standard UK-spec 3-pin plug in the garage, which provided 240V for the washing machine. Needless to say the socket was in regular use for various bits of 240V kit they'd brought over from the UK.
Would that socket have been a standard fit then, or something my friends would have brought over from the UK and installed?
David
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Almost certainly the latter, since in 30-odd years of visits and 5+ years of doing DIY on my Mum's house, I've never seen anything remotely like a UK 3 pin plug or socket in the DIY sheds/hardware stores in the US. But then, I didn't look very hard, since I wasn't expecting there to be any...
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They'd have brought it over, though if they brought the washing machine over as well, I wonder how it fared on the 60Hz current? There are other questions, too, in that if it was simply the usual three wire US supply, both legs would be live when working at 240v and the single-pole switching of a UK socket would break only one leg.
However, there's a perfectly good NEMA series of standard 240v plugs and sockets for the US and they're commonly used. The NEMA 6-15 is a neat plug and a well-made one is very satisfactory.
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Mostly 15A sockets IME on 20A circuits. Would be lucky to get a rating of 2.5A @ 50V in any other country.

Yes. The outlets used for this vary.

I don't know exact regs. I believe they are mandatory in bathrooms. It also seems to be mandatory to supply hairdriers with RCD plugs molded on, so you often end up with both.
I found one that didn't trip in a hotel and commented on that. Got a lot of comments back that it is very common for them not to work and no one has noticed. They are usually 5mA trip.
You can do things such as put an earthed socket on a circuit with no earth, if it's an RCD socket (or there's one upstream, since you can diasy-chain from the RCD protected side).

Single phase up each street, can't recall exactly the voltages, but values roughly between 4kV and 12kV IIRC. The single phase is typically taken from one of 3-phases running past the ends of the streets.
These are transformed down to 120-0-120V in dustbin style transformers up the poles, each feeding 2-4 homes (the drop wires can't go very far because the regulation of 120V goes to pot at high currents).
The "dustbins" are famous for overheating and catching the oil alight, raining it down on the pavement^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hsidewalk. I watched one burning out once (1995, IIRC). They also look a bit like a beer can on a pole to those who walk around with guns, and do get shot at. I was involved in some telecoms kit which was being made for the US, and the spec includes being bullet proof for exactly this reason.
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from snipped-for-privacy@cucumber.demon.co.uk (Andrew Gabriel) contains these words:

Very true. Though there are better quality ones made, though not generally used.
Most outlets are duplex -- i.e. two NEMA 5-15 sockets on the one plate.
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from snipped-for-privacy@cucumber.demon.co.uk (Andrew Gabriel) contains these words:

The trouble is that the US accessories are based on a design dating back to 1904 and in general use by 1915 and there's never been a basic change in that design so there's been no general forced upgrading of installations such as has taken place in many or most other countries. It's not at all uncommon to find post and wire installations still functioning (individual insulated conductors on porcelain insulators).
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On 2/5/2010 9:16 PM, Appin wrote:

Yes - years ago, I was helping my Dad run some new wiring in his house, and we discovered that the original knob-and-tube stuff was still there - and still in use. The house dated from the turn of the last century, and also contained still-connected gas lines for lighting. Some of the light fixtures on the top floor were combos, with both gas and electric fittings. Scary stuff!
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On Thu, 04 Feb 2010 13:34:47 -0800, Owain wrote:

Hmm, I've not heard of that requirement around here, but outlets this side of the Pond are indeed pretty crappy - over time the connections for plug pins go really sloppy.
Matters aren't helped by too many installations where folk have used the "back stab" connections, either (where you just push the bare wire in and in theory it grips) rather than the screw terminals on the sides of the outlet. Heat and vibration and house movement (lots of timber-framed structures here) aren't kind to them.
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On Thu, 04 Feb 2010 17:18:38 -0600, Jules

About the only time I've come across these has been within some fluorescent luminaires. An horrible assembly method obviously devised for cheapness.
Reminds me of the rubber things used to hold tea-towels on the side of a 'kitchen-unit' in the seventies.
TBH, I don't like 'wire-wrap' stuff either, although many swear by it. Give me proper (and properly) soldered joints every time... (And none of this 'lead-free' solder!).
The mantra should be:- 'make a joint that doesn't need soldering, then solder it.'
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Nothing wrong with them in principle - like any wire termination what's needed is to keep the wire in good contact with the terminal body. A spring is equally as capable of doing this as a screw. After all it's the way a plug and socket works.
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*Some days you're the dog, some days the hydrant.

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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On Thu, 04 Feb 2010 23:56:44 +0000, Frank Erskine wrote:

Exactly. It's OK so long as nobody sneezes near it, but prone to failure otherwise. Of course screws can come loose, too, but at least in that situation the stripped end of the wire would have to 'uncoil' around the screw shaft for the joint to fail completely. Shorts seem very unlikely, and the screw terminals on US outlets are designed in such a way that there's not much chance of the wire wobbling and sparking.
I was also amazed the first time I saw a wire nut on house wiring in the US; I thought I was looking at someone's bodge, but no - it's all done like that. Urgh.
cheers
Jules
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Jules wrote:

Thanks for that. I thought it was just me!
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